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[Lifting Log] In Which I Start Over

beard
I have lost count of the number of times I restarted my lifting program this year. It seems lately I just go out to the garage and do a set of presses just to get the blood pumping, but not to gain anything. It's more like maintenance. And I'm okay with maintaining the strength I have as long as my weight keeps dropping.

Tonight I did a 215# squat, 120# press, 120# row, and a 165# deadlift. My left knee has been the bane of my squats all year, and it felt tweaky on my very last rep. Stretching is the only cure.

I may get a chance Thursday to lift again, and definitely on Saturday, but that's a long time between lifts.
beard
The new Star Wars movie is supposed to be the thing every geek longs for, as if we can get the foul taste of Episode I out of our mouths. I've watched the teaser trailer. I've watched the Lego version. I've even watched the George Lucas "Special Edition" of the trailer. And I am, well, not letting myself get overwhelmed with it all.

We get to see Tatooine, and maybe Naboo, and maybe some forest planet. We get to see SFX that look like they are closer to the original 1977 style than the 1999 style. From what little glimpses the teaser offers, it looks better, less CGI like, although I expect there will be a lot of CGI in this film. I have heard that Abrams is using more real props and settings than Lucas did in the prequels, and I'm okay with that.

I'm already terribly confused by what's canon in Star Wars now, as I think most of the Marvel, Dark Horse, and Bantam extended universe stuff has been scrapped. That turns the last 30 years of publishing into fan fiction, I think. Some of that is okay, as many of the books were quite good, but many were not. Plus, they killed Chewbacca in one of the books and that bothered the hell out of me. All those stories could be out.

Star Wars is really mythology, so the mythology has to hold up. We've seen the Dark Side of the force rise, conquer, and get beaten. Now, I guess officially, we know nothing about the Light Side of the force. We don't really know how the Jedi ruled or how they will rule, or even if they will rule. The title "The Force Awakens" can be spun out into many many directions. Presumably there are no Sith lords running around now, unless Vader had other candidates. Again, the rules of the EU may be out, so who knows. I know the rule of two was mentioned in a movie, so it's in.

Another thing that I'm not sure I'm going to appreciate is Abrams' involvement.  I know Abrams from Star Trek and Cloverfield. Star Trek didn't impress me, but once my voice changed, I found Star Trek less and less enjoyable, to the point where I announce "James Kirk is the worst thing to happen to science fiction" in my radio announcer voice at conventions, just to start fights. Abrams didn't do a good job with Trek because the source material is void of content. You can't do anything with it. As soon as Kirk strays from the pugilistic rapist he is, he's got nothing else to recommend him. Cloverfield was a good movie, until the monster was given screen time. I almost wonder if Cloverfield would have been better without ever seeing the full thing.

Oh, and apparently he was involved with Lost, which struck me as a story of characters and mystery and no idea what the fuck they were doing. From what I gather reading reviews of Lost, I think I may have been right. They started without knowing the end, and that is exactly why so many of my short stories and novels stop. I have great openings, no story to back them up with, so they linger in a folder on my computer, emiting whatever odor bytes can muster.

I know that this time next year I wil be excited about Episode VII. I will be waiting in line to by advanced tickets to a Friday night show. I know my Star Wars fan will be there, squeeing with delight.

But stilly, I'm nervous. We haven't been given any hints in this trailer to define the movie. I've got a guy in a stroomtrooper uniform, and a gal on hoverbike, and a silly lightsaber with a dangerous-looking crossguard, and--oh, the Falcon and John William's most famous fanfare. I will admit, that made my heart leap for joy. I felt it.

[NaNoWriMo] "The Long Weekend" Day One

beard
A couple of weeks ago we visited my sister-in-law at her college and we hit the colleg bookstore, as we do in our family. There I discovered a "new" book by Dashiell Hammet: The Return of the Thin Man. It contains the stories Hammet wrote for the first two sequels to the first Thin Man movie. Because it is a treatment for a movie script, it is "tight" writing and it is written in present tense omniscient.

As I decided only Thursday what style of story to write, and that was based on Nick and Nora while using my established characters of Murdock Collins and Jordon Li, I found the natural voice to be Omniscient Third Person Present Tense. This is a strange way to write, especially has every other Murdock Collins story is First Person Past Tense.

The freedom of the voice is I can head hop, which makes writing a murder plot a bit tricky. The challenge is the characters all have to have their own opinion and to some extent, their own voice, and it can't be filtered through Murdock's normal sarcasm.

The other challenge I face in plotting this thing is I don't know what the hell is going on. I know who dies. I'm kind of certain as to why, and very unsure about the who. I fear I'm going to break the firstrule of mystery writing by introducing the actual murderer some time in the third act. Right now I have a small cast of characters. I think one of the things that made the Thin Man movies so good was the large cast of characters, so I need to find a way to include more people.

Also, and I don't know why this seems as important as it does, but I don't kill anyone until almost 2,000 words in.

[Politics] Oh, yeah. Elections

beard
We're what, three, four weeks from the election and I haven't picked up what was supposed to be my active citizenship stuff.

It's a midterm election, and almost every pollster is claiming the Republicans will take the Senate, which I can't see, as they don't have a platform. They have Bengazi and Repeal Obamacare. They have "support families" by eliminating the minimum wage and "environmental protection" by letting oil companies write pollution guidelines.

I probably won't get far this year, either. I'm feeling isolationist. The more I watch the world, the more disgusted I feel. The more time I spend on the world, the more my time seems wasted. In short, I feel like "they" are doing a good job of beating me into submission.

So, here's my current take on the Oregon measures. I reserve the right to change my mind as I investigate.

  • Measure 86 - Form some sort of fund to help students pay for college. Why not? I know too many people burdened by school debt they cannot ignore and underemployement, because the American Dream turned out to cost too many "job creators" money. It's a temporary fix, but that shouldn't stop us.

  • Measure 87 - Let our Judges get second jobs. They probably need them, to pay off school loans. No one seemed to care enough to make arguments for or against this, and it is described as a technical fix on the constitution. Okay. I'll bite.

  • Measure 88 - Let non-citizens get a card saying they know how to drive. My parish has a stake in this one, and I'm pretty sure compassion will override principle. There are more arguments against it than for it, but a cursory glance at the opposition highlights many "I don't like brown people" type of comments. Life is tough enough with a screwed up immigration system. Let's make it easier on people who are just trying to build a better life. You know, like the American Dream we sold them on promises.

  • Measure 89 - Let's put Gender Equality in the Constitution. No one is arguing against this. Wow. This one should have been like clickbait for the misogynists, and they didn't follow through. Vote yes. Seems like a no-brainer to enshrine equality.

  • Measure 90 - Let's Screw with the Primaries! - I'm against this one. It's the wrong solution to the problem. Instead of sending the top two "best politicians" we'll send the top two "richest runners" instead. I'd vote OH HELL NO but Secretary of State Brown won't let me.

  • Measure 91 - Legalize Pot. Sorry. No. Yes, they are less physically harmful than cigarettes, but I wan't to ban cigarettes, so there.

  • Measure 92 - Label GMOs. I don't fear GMOs. I believe that science can do a lot to improve our quality and quantity of food, and we should use every measure possible to do so. That being said, I do fear food manufacturers (and I kind of dislike thinking about food being manufactured. Cars are manufactured. IKEA furniture is manufactured. Food should be grown) are too eager to see a return on investment of their research and will bypass the normal science-based shit we do to ensure our food is safe. I'm in favor of this, because every little bit helps.

So that's where I stand today. If I take a more serious look at things, I'll try to share.
beard

Uncle Josh is supposed to go out and lift, and then walk to the library, so of course I ran through my Facebook feed and found this post shared by my friend John Burridge. In short, the post compares Amy Pond's basic arc with that of Twilight's Bella Swan (if I got the name wrong, I don't care. I'm writing this based on sciolism). The two characters have the same things happen: They must choose between two men of different species, there is a baby that grows incredibly quickly and marries the the other man.

Uncle Josh says "pshaw!"

Never mind that, as I understand Twilight, Bella's baby grows unnaturally fast, whereas Dr. River Song grew up "normally" and it only looked fast to the story because of time travel.

No, this points to a simple "well, duh" truth: story arcs are limited. Character counts. Love triangles exist all over literature. So do older men marrying younger women. These things happen. Compare the characters, and the differences emerge.

As I understand Twilight (and blessedly very little at that), Bella is the kind of girl who moped and tried suicide if she didn't have a boyfriend. Amy's attitude is "whose arse to I have to kick to get my boyfriend/husband/Time Lord" back. Bella is seen by the men as a prize, or punching bag, or meal, or penis-storage unit. Amy is a partner that makes life worth living.

We tell the same arcs all the time. TV is incredibly predictable because the shows tell the same four or five stories over and over again. It's the characters that matter. Ask any fan of Castle. I don't know anyone who watches Castle that actually cares about the murders. They don't matter. Murder is a device to let two characters be over-the-top cute with each other. Even the season-long arcs on Castle are familiar and predictable. But that's okay. We spend time with the characters.

Of course, if I don't translate that understanding into my writing, I will continue to not sell.

beard

(crossposted from avuncularjosh.wordpress.com)

First, I want to be clear that I'm not in one of those hypersensitive "am I the only person who recognizes passive voice these days" moods, because what's bugging me isn't strictly speaking, passive voice. In fact, I think proper passive voice would help cure my ill.

I am workshopping a novel and for some reason phrases like "pain coursed through my body" are standing out and begging for the red-pen treatment. Similarly, "the blood spill on the floor made me slip" bugs me.

Maybe I'm being peevish from not-enough-coffee-and-sleep.

These phrases are not gramattically Passive Voice. I know that. But they are still, to me, passive. "Pain coursed through my body" is generic, anyway, and could be replaced with something sharper. The second example at least has some action to it, but "I slipped on the blood" seems the better, more direct choice.

I have made an argument for proper passive voice earlier (okay, back in 2006). These examples that I'm finding don't fit that mold. Granted, my home-grown example was crafted to point this out.

I see this a lot, emotions or sensations doing something to  the narrative character or their body. It always bothers me, which probably means my own writing is full of it.

I also see a challenge to fixing it. It is too easy for me to fall into a Adams/Pratchett inspired joke like "it landed on my foot and I tried the hundred-yard dash to the moon" or something equally silly. To keep things serious, I have to wonder if scratching the sentence is the wiser move.

Sigh. At least it's off my chest.

beard
Story A Day has moved. It has also revived itself with a quick piece on Care and Feeding by Tim Pratt, what was published at Daily Science Fiction last Friday.

You can find my article here (but of course go read the story first).
beard
I am very bad at quotidian. I think that's a given. I have also spent a lot of time trying to revive some projects elsewhere. For some reason, LiveJournal doesn't seem to be a home for me any more. I do most of my reading not through my friends feed, but through RSS feeds. It's not like I've been a king of journaling anyway.

I hope to do better. Or at least more.

I did spend some time writing up a new BWTR entry, and it will go out on Monday over there on WordPress.

To quote Granny Weatherwax, I aten't dead.

[Ashland, Writing] In which I have an Idea

beard

This is an idea that I had coming back from Ashland, thinking about the Tempest and also thinking about Jeremiah Tolbert's story Wet Fur, which I alpha-read and recently read in the latest issue of Asimov's. In Wet Fur, I imagined (and have not talked to Jeremiah about) the idea of a cloud of canine souls came first, and probably started with this idea of saving human beings by uploading them, and nobody would want to go to digital heavan without a dog, so what if someone tried to upload dogs, and somehow the idea of clouds of nanobots that seemed to target dying dogs appeared, and the popular culture called them reapers, and the author said "what a cool idea." Jeremiah, being a damned good writer, probably followed that up with "but it's not a story." So what does JT do? He finds the story. He finds the story intimately connected to this reaper cloud. Who better than the scientist (although I had the impression it was the scientist's daughter) who had created them by whatever accident happened? Being known as the scientist who created reapers is not a good PR move, so this person would change her name, have a few personal demons, and the story, the actual thing that creates the narrative, is her overcoming that need. She needs a new identity, and makes one, but it isn't enough because assholes recognize her and call her out because she's her and they don't understand what the reapers really do. Then she meets someone who could, possibly, help her through her journey, and the carefully crafted identity she has is destroyed by said asshole, and she risks losing all, but she doesn't, because fate has put her with the guy who is not indifferent, but cares more about her than the reapers. He offers friendship in a world openly hostile toward the reapers and specifically towards her when she is found out. That's her story. Jeremiah, again with the whole brilliant writer schtick, produces a heavily emotional second person present tense narrative. Damn him and his talent. I have thought about the HOW HE DID THIS ever since I re-read it in Asimov's, and the above is my working theory. I don't care if it's true because I promised myself that should I have an IDEA, I would try this tactic to see if it works.

I just came back from Ashland, where I saw five plays in three days, and hope to unpack them. The IDEA that came to me after the show is alternative fantastic history: what would have happened to Ariel had Prospero died before releasing her from service? Then I decided that my wind spirit that was enslaved by a wizard would be bound to the ground to keep her in service, and her one goal, her one dream, was to find a new master who would release her, because the standard "the spell dies with the wizard" isn't good drama in this case. So that's the core of this idea. What if...?

Clearly, this wind spirit, for whom I will steal the name Ariel for convenience, is by her nature invisible, which decreases her chances of being heard or helped. Her greatest desire is not freedom, but to fly, to be free from her tethers. Freedom from servitude is secondary to her freedom from earth. And as I'm an SOB when I need to be, her bondage is so severe she cannot even go up a flight of stairs. The best she can do to feel normal is to run up mountains. So there's an idea, a character, and a story, but it's not enough. A sarcastic thought that I didn't tweet this weekend was "If you want to write fantastical, use fairies. To be 'literary', call them a delusion." In short, my Ariel needs a wizard, and (again with the me-being-an-SOB-when-it's-called-for) she needs one in a world that has forgotten magic, set it aside, and let it linger in the story books. Her wizard, naturally, is an acrophobe. What does a writer do with an acrophobe? Force them to fly across the country. Stealing a plot line from "Water by the Spoonful" (a damned fine play) by Quiara Alegría Hudes, I'll make it a dying a mother. Because I've got theater on the brain (and as I tend to write dialog heavy anyway), I'll write it as a one-act play.

beard
First Disclaimer: No one is accusing me (that I know of) of being an Orwellian Thought Police.

Second Disclaimer: I tend to agree with the stuff that is being called Orwellian.

The current brouhaha in science fiction fantasy fandom over the Hugos has led me, unfortunately, to this entry by John C Wright. Apparently, the free market is Orwellian. Who knew? Well, actually, I did. The Free Market tells us that what is important is not how much money you shell out for something, but how much you saved by shelling out that much money over what it would cost some other schmuck. The Free Market Capitalism are trying their damnedest to convince us that "Spending is Saving."

Orwell pointed out that language shapes thought. This is hard to disagree with, given the samples we have to work with. What's the difference between a "Used Car" dealership and a "Pre-Owned" dealership? Not a thing. They both sell cars that other people have thrown away. I personally believe that one of the reasons we suffer from cultural gaps is the languages involved handle even the basics differently.

This is not Orwellian. This is humanity.

Orwellian is, I think to many people, "War is Peace". Like when President Bush said, "when we're talking about war, we're talking about peace." Orwellian means twisting words to mean the exact opposite of what they really mean.

As far as the Thought Police go, no one is saying Card committed thoughtcrime when he said gays should be second class citizens. What a lot of people said was "that's homophobic bullcrap and if he starts writing Superman, I'm not going to buy it." That's the Free Market at work again.

No one said Theodore Beale committed thoughtcrime when he called N.K. Jemesin (and, I believe, all blacks) "savage and uncivilized." What most people said was "What a jerk, I'm not gonna read his Hugo-nominated book nor will I vote for it." Unfair to the work? Yes. But this is the Free Market in action. It is not the quality of the product that gets judged, but the emotional connections consumers have with the product.

Take, for example, Coke and Pepsi. Coke commercials are full of happy people being happy and enjoying themselves. Pepsi commercials are loud and fast (or just plain bewildering) and keep trying to convince me that they are "new" and "fresh" and "hip" and "all the cool kids drink Pepsi." They frequently use pop stars I actively dislike or simply (thankfully) do not recognize. Coke shows me Daddy picking up his daughter after dance class with a couple of cans in a six-pack ring. Pepsi commercials make me feel ill. Coke commercials make me feel good. Again, this is how capitalism works.

Disclaimer: Outside of the occasional restaurant meal, I hardly ever drink a Coke these days.

The other thing that I cannot fathom is the sense of victimhood Wright infuses into his piece. Somehow, when being called on a racist or sexist or homophobic comment, the commenter is now a victim. Really? In America, stating openly that certain people should not have equal rights under the law is a pretty bold statement that goes against the ideal of equality our founders had. (I am not saying they had equality, or would even recognize equality as we understand it now, but they gave us the vision.) We get these rights, but those people don't. This is Unamerican.

And to say it is to uphold "American Values" is Orwellian.

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